we followed the music forward.

21 April 2012 § Leave a comment

I feel disappointed that my friend Jas gave up on audio engineering.

We both studied at SAE, not together but in succession, then followed the music and occasionally worked together. The peak of our collaboration was in the studio we pieced together with cables, mixing boards, and imported beer. The result was an album, Kampfstoff LOST, a mix of martial-industrial compositions made mostly by Jason, who has the potential as a musician to write film scores and symphonies, to conduct for orchestras, what have you. The album was never popular – it wasn’t meant to be – but was an achievement nevertheless, and represents for me, if anything, a good set of Saturday memories, mixing and writing and drinking. Not always in that order.

When I left Florida, 90% of the studio gear went to his place. Technically, we were to “split it,” and when I’ve visited in the past, one or two projects have gotten half-finished. Otherwise, our gear sits unused in his guest bedroom. The console tape from my last session (two and a half years ago) still lay across the faders of the old analog board, and his once-beloved AT4040 condenser microphone is still attached to the same sad round base stand it has been since 2006.

For years also I have done nothing with my education in audio. I followed the music out from behind the scenes, away from the studio, and out the door of the business I pretended to want everything from. I went traveling to find where and why it had escaped me. When I ended up back to university, I found something that I love more than setting up drum mics and emptying the ashtrays of rock stars.

And so has he. He went back to school, too, and is about to finish his degree in computer science. Yesterday he explained to me that writing code and completing a program he’s designed gives him the same satisfaction and sweet accomplishment that he got out of writing music and finishing a song. That computer science, in its own way, is another form of music. It is his music – one he can make money from. (He could have made money from composing, but perhaps code fits him better.)

Why am I projecting onto him?

This is why: I am disappointed in myself for giving up engineering. I was fired from my jobs, and never jumped back in. By walking away from something I’d worked for as hard as I did – I held down four jobs on top of freelance live sound (a subtle form of self-punishment) – I felt as if I was quitting on myself.

I had never been sure that it was my calling.

That’s a lie. I knew it wasn’t. I just enjoyed it. It felt like my then-relationship did – that if this is the best the world can offer me, I’ll take it, even if it doesn’t fit what I’m set out to do. So, until something better came along, I made the best of it.

The next something better didn’t have the glamor of Music attached at the rear end to show off to the people I met, but Travel has its own frailties and loveliness. Writing, too, has its perks and downsides. For example, once again I have to sit in front a computer and do productive things. Wherever I land, I should not have an internet connection, because that would be bad for writing. Maybe I just need more self-control.

Jason’s move gave me permission to follow through with mine. He found another dream and pursued it. That was Rainier’s sage advice for those who find themselves with all their dreams come true: dream again. He said it came from his 11-year-old son before he died. Rainier says it a lot, hoping someone will listen.

***

It baffles me that I attach myself to some of my pasts and not others. Granted, some have been really fucking cool, and others not so much. At many turning points, after working toward something tangible and finding it, I think this is it – the good times are over, that I will never again have a new set of memories and stories to employ, to tell, to relax into my mind with. As soon as I accept that, I let it go. I don’t need it. That period invariably becomes one of those new sets of memories.

One of those turning points was on a mild winter night some eight years ago, walking along Donald Ross Road with Emily. We talked about how living in the past hurt the present. It was more her telling me that I could not live the obituary of summer 2001 anymore, that there was more to life, that something came after, and why couldn’t I see that? Something about doing big things. In retrospect, I took what she said that manicured Florida evening, packed my bags, stuffed boxes, and moved into the future instead.

For being present then would have meant harder work than for which I was capable. It would have meant accepting that maybe I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, that maybe I should go to a real college after all, or that I should travel like I really wanted. But I’d hitched myself to Music, and refused to let it go.

I needed to graduate SAE, work in music for a while, and make it through the hardest parts of life and relationship to come to being me. All the while I was proud to take the difficult route through everything. Still am. I never listened to anyone who thought their advice could help. Though it may have been wise, and may have applied, I saw no value in a lesson if it was taught by theory alone. That they went through it didn’t matter.

Or did it? Did I listen to lessons from good stories? I must have. Aesop’s Fables and those told with morals and lessons didn’t fly far above my head. Reading them, I rather liked to think that the sun and the wind really did battle over a guy walking down a road, competing to see if one can get him to take off his jacket, and the other to put it back on. There was a moral at the end of the story, I’m sure of it, but all I remember from the end was that it got so hot that he went for a swim in the river to cool off. Did another cool wind come after that?

Of course. They always do. I’m a traveler, and learn things daily.

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